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First look: Portland State at Eastern Washington

Portland State coach Bruce Barnum is 0-10 in his third year in charge of the Vikings. (Seattle Times)
Portland State coach Bruce Barnum is 0-10 in his third year in charge of the Vikings. (Seattle Times)

The air has gone out of Barney Ball.

Two years ago, the Portland State Vikings were the darlings of the Football Championship Subdivision and coach Bruce Barnum was the national coach of the year.

Today, PSU is 0-10 for the first time in its history going into its season finale Saturday at Eastern Washington.

“I knew I was going to take lumps,” said Barnum, an EWU alum, after a 63-17 home loss last weekend to Weber State on Senior Day.

“Obviously, I don’t want to go 0 and, what are we? 0-10? I don’t want to take those lumps, but I guarantee it’ll pay off,” Barnum said.

Perhaps it will, but in the meantime, the young Vikings have paid the price for inexperience. The opened with respectable losses at BYU (20-6) and Oregon State (35-32), but have been blown out in all but one of their seven Big Sky Conference games.

That one came on Nov. 4 in the showdown for last place at then-winless Cal Poly. Following a 35-28 loss, athletic director Valerie Clary said she plans to stick with Barnum for the long term.

However, Barnum said that if the Vikings are in the same shape in two years, “she (Cleary) should run me out of here.”

Next up is a return to Cheney, where in 2015 the Vikings claimed a 34-31 win to earn a spot in the FCS playoffs. This time, Eastern will have all the motivation in the world: the Eagles need a win to have any shot at the postseason.

“I predict that game is going to be tight just because of the emotion of it,” Barnum said.

“And when you play your last football game as a college student-athlete, you know the game’s gone.”

“You know you’re walking away from it. So, your effort’s not a problem,” Barnum said.

For PSU, the biggest problem this year has been defense. In conference games only, the Vikings are last in rushing defense (294 yards per game), scoring defense (46 points) and 11th in total defense (510 yards).

Eastern’s defensive struggles on third down are nothing compared to the Vikings’, who are third-worst in the nation at 48.9 percent.

Offensively, PSU ranks in the middle of the conference at 445 yards per game. However, the Vikings are struggling to score and are last in pass efficiency.

Their biggest weapon is receiver Trent Riley, who ranks thurd in the Big Sky with 47 receptions, for 512 yards.


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